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How to Use Your Foreign Cell Phone in India

Having a cell phone while traveling does provide some of us with a sense of security and it is great to be able to stay in touch with family and friends.

Some companies sell global sim cards and also rent cell phones for tourists and businessmen visiting foreign countries.

If you have a unlocked dual, tri or quad band GSM cell phone that can work on 900/1800 MHz You can use your cell phone in India without paying roaming charges to your foreign phone company.

To use your phone in India, buy a new prepaid Sim Card (available at most phone retailers all over the country) The cost of the Sim Cards is approximately Rupees 100.

The Sim Card will give you a new local phone number. The retailer you buy the Sim Card from will also install it for you free of charge and within a short time you have a working phone with a new local number.

Roaming is already activated and the phone allows you to make local as well as international calls. When you are ready to leave India simply revert back to your original foreign Sim Card.

A new phone has recently been released in India that is capable of working with two sim cards simultaneously. Details at the bottom of the page.

Some of the cell phone companies, to entice customers to buy their sim cards offer promotional packages such as including a number of minutes of talk time or offering a longer validity time before recharging is required.

Best Sim Card in India - Which Sim Card to buy?

How to use your cell phone in India

Once you have installed your new sim card in your cell phone you will have a local Indian phone number. Cell phone numbers in India usually have ten digits.

Making Local calls: To call any landline phone in India. Dial the relevant STD code (STD code is similar to what is called the Area Code in USA/Canada) followed by the number.

For example to dial a Delhi landline phone number you must first dial the Delhi std code, which is 001 and then dial the phone number you are calling.

To call phone number 23454321 in Delhi you need to dial 01123454321.

To dial other cell phone numbers you can just dial the full 10 digit cell phone number and area codes are not required.

Calling Indian cell phone from foreign countries: To call any Indian cell phone from overseas, you only need to dial India's country code (91) followed by the cell phone number. There is no need to dial the city std code when calling a Indian cell phone number.

Free incoming calls to your cell phone in India

The way cell phones work in India is slightly different from some of the western countries. In the United States or Canada, if you had no money left in your prepaid cell phone. Your cell phone would not allow you to receive or make calls until money was added to your cell phone account.

However, India has a different system. Most cell phone companies in India allow free in coming calls to their sim card users. So even if you have no prepaid time left for your phone and cannot make outgoing calls, you can still get incoming calls. The only condition is that the validity period of your sim card should not have expired.

For example if your sim card is valid for another month and your prepaid account balance is nil, you will not be able to make outgoing calls until you add money to your account. However as your sim card validity has another month to go, you will still receive calls on your telephone and use it for incoming calls until your sim card validity runs out.

When deciding on which Sim Card to buy, one needs to check what is important to them. The longer validity of the sim card or other bonuses like more talk time, offered by the phone companies try to sell their sim cards.

How to get a new sim card in India for your foreign cell phone.

  1. Visit a phone sim card retailer. Most retailers carry sim cards for all the major GSM phone companies. Major companies are Airtel, Hutch, Idea and MTLN.

  2. Select the sim card of your choice. Cost of sim card with a new local phone number for India is approximately Rupees 100 to 125. (US$ 3 approximately)

  3. Take a photo copy of the first page of your passport (the pages showing your details and photograph) or drivers license. This photo copy is required by the cell phone companies as proof of identity.

  4. Fill out the Sim Card purchase application form that will be provided by the sim card retailer, ( name, address etc.) As proof of identity use the photo copy of your drivers license or passport.

  5. Dealer will install the sim card you purchased in your telephone and you will have a local phone number immediately.(Some outlets due to changes in identification laws now need about 24 hours to activate your new number.)

  6. Add prepaid calling time to your new number in the amount you wish to. Additional call time can be added as you desire during your stay in India. The phone retailer you buy your sim card from should be able to explain the various choices and denominations of prepaid vouchers for phone.

PLEASE NOTE: The recharge coupons that are sold have three components, "Call time," "Processing Fee" and "Service Tax".

So if you are buying a Rupees 500 talk time voucher for your phone. Don't be deceived into believing that you can make calls worth Rupees 500.

Check exactly how much of the Rs 500 actually goes towards giving you call time. The call time varies between different amounts.

Also when buying recharge coupons for cell phones in India keep in mind the validity of the recharge coupon.

NOTE: If your foreign cell phone has a setting that blocks your user ID being transmitted (your cell number being displayed to the person you call) your cell phone will not work in India unless you turn this setting off in your phone. I found this out the hard way when my cell phone would only accept calls and not allow me to dial out. As soon as I changed my settings the phone was back to normal and worked fine.

Remember that your cell phone will work only if it is unlocked. Most cell phone companies when they sell their phones to subscribers want them to stay with their company and usually have their phones locked so as to prevent subscribers from switching phone companies.

If your phone is locked you cannot use a Sim Card of an Indian phone company unless you get the phone unlocked. This can be done by speaking to your foreign phone company and getting them to unlock your phone or getting it unlocked by a technician in India.

Camera Cell Phone Warning

Some temples and tourist attractions like museums, aquariums have a policy of not allowing cameras into their premises or charge extra to allow cameras.

Cell phones with cameras sometimes become a problem. Authorities are aware that people take pictures with cell camera phones where cameras are not permitted. Some places will not allow you to enter if you have a camera phone. In the Indian state of Jammu when we went to see a Hindu temple. One member of our party who had a camera phone had to leave it at the gate. Cell phones without a camera were allowed in.

Countries Using GSM900 & 1800 Cell Phones Similar to India

Afghanistan | Albania | Algeria | Austria | Australia | Belgium | Bulgaria | Czech Republic | Democratic Rep-Congo | Denmark | El Salvador | Estonia | Finland | France Namibia | Netherlands | Nigeria | Norway | Philippines | Portugal | Romania | Russia | Singapore | Slovak Republic | Slovenia | Somalia | South Africa | Spain Switzerland | Sweden | Taiwan | Tajikistan | Tanzania | Thailand | Turkey | Uganda | Ukraine | United Kingdom | Uzbekistan | Venezuela

Please Note: While the countries listed above use the same SM cell phone frequencies as India. Cell phones should be unlocked so that Sim cards provided by Indian cell phone companies can be used. If your cell phone is locked by a phone provider in your home country you will have to get it unlocked if you wish to use it in India.

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